January 01, 2009

The Evil That Runs Through Men's Hearts

Alexander Solzhenitsyn famously wrote in The Gulag Archipelago, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good from evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of their own heart?”

The great writer could have been, and likely was, talking not simply about the hearts of human beings, but also of the Soviet Union. For in no country during the 20th century was so much evil perpetrated by and upon a nation by its own people.

As a historical and sociological phenomenon, this is at once attractive and repellent, intriguing and hideous. We are drawn in by the murderous enigma that was Stalin, then stay to marvel at the coterie of political eunuchs that surrounded him, or to study the world war he fostered, or simply to understand the inhumane empire he created, founded upon hell-bent industrialization and a totalitarian time bomb.

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